15 Gemstones Found in Canada
Canada is the second-largest nation on the planet, covering nearly 10 million square kilometers. The country features a wide variety of landscapes, weather conditions, and natural phenomena. As a result, the number of gemstones found in Canada is surprisingly large.
Gems require specific conditions to form. Since the terrain is so varied, a broader range of formation conditions exists, leading to a wide array of precious and semi-precious stones in Canada.
If you’re curious about gems and crystals from Canada, here is a look at 15 Canadian gemstones that are favorites of jewelry fans and collectors alike.
15 Gemstones Found in Canada
One of the most recognizable precious stones in Canada, amethyst has long had its place among the most popular gems in the world. It’s also the Official Gemstone of Ontario, mainly due to the large deposit found in Superior Country.
Canadian amethyst features the characteristic strong purple hues you’d expect from the stone. Additionally, you can find everything from long crystals to striking druzy, creating a lot of variety among local specimens.
Amethyst is also prevalent on the Bay of Fundy coast, and I’ve found numerous gorgeous specimens here in New Brunswick and the Fundy coast of Nova Scotia.
Ammolite is often near the top of the list when it comes to more famous gemstones from Canada. The gem has an appearance similar to opal, featuring a rainbow’s worth of colors dancing across the surface. However, its composition is quite different.
Ammolite from Canada has a significant amount of aragonite, a mineral that can also be found in pearls. It’s the aragonite that gives this gem its striking coloring.
Additionally, ammolite is an organic gemstone. In fact, while ammolite is considered the National Gemstone of Canada, it’s more accurate to refer to the stone as a fossilized shell.
When it comes to rare Canadian gemstones, ammolite certainly qualifies. It’s only found in Alberta along a small stretch of the St. Mary River, significantly limiting the total supply.
Another of the well-known gemstones from Canada, aquamarine – which is the modern March birthstone – is technically a type of beryl. Usually, it’s found in six-sided crystal formations, something that may help set it apart visually from other stones around it.
The stone’s color is another way that aquamarine stands out from the crowd. The gem comes in a wide range of hues reminiscent of seas and rivers. In fact, the coloring spawned a legend, with many believing that mermaids kept the gems as treasures.
When it comes to where it’s found, Canadian aquamarine stones may come from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon Territory. While there aren’t formal mining operations focused on retrieving aquamarine, a decent amount is still collected. In some cases, it’s found alongside other mined gems, though some discoveries are simply luck.
When people think of Canadian precious stones, April’s birthstone doesn’t usually jump to mind. However, Canada is actually a reliable source of conflict-free diamonds.
Part of the reason for the lack of awareness is that Canada hasn’t been involved in the diamond market for long. Diamonds weren’t discovered here until the early 1990s, and the first mine wasn’t operating until 1998, when one began running in the Northwest Territories.
Today, mines are located in many areas, including the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. Additionally, awareness has grown, especially among socially conscious buyers.
Canadian diamonds aren’t just conflict-free; they are also ethically sourced. All mining operations have to adhere to incredibly strict standards, ensuring safe working conditions, fair wages, and sustainable practices.
Another one of the precious stones in Canada that’s also a birthstone is the emerald. Like aquamarine, emerald is a type of beryl, often forming in crystal-like structures.
Canada wasn’t known to be a source of emeralds until the late 1970s, though reliable locations for the stone were hard to find. Over time, mines were set up in a variety of areas, including British Columbia, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory
While not all of the operations continue today, those that do often produce magnificent gem-quality stones. As with diamonds, they are ethically sourced, and all of the operations have to adhere to strict standards, making Canadian emeralds a favorite among eco-conscious shoppers.
6. Green Jade
Canadian green jade was one of the country’s biggest claims to fame when it came to gems. The color is incredibly striking, reminiscent of moss or evergreen trees. It also holds a magnificent polish and is highly versatile, allowing it to work for a wide array of ornamental purposes.
However, calling the Canadian jade stone “jade” isn’t entirely accurate as there are two different stones with that name. The jade mined in British Columbia is actually nephrite, while the other "jade" is jadeite.
One interesting thing about Canadian green jade is that much of it doesn’t remain in the country. Instead, it’s sent to China, where demand for the breathtaking stone is typically much higher.
While garnets are traditionally known for their deep red coloring, that isn’t the only hue you can find. Almandine garnets tend to be a brilliant red, though they often have a slight violet tint. Hessonite garnets tend to have an earthier hue, causing some to call them “cinnamon stone” due to the hints of brown within the red base.
Tsavorites are also a striking shade of green, ranging from a bright hue to a deeper emerald. Again, they are fairly rare, making them the second most valuable version of the stone.
Canada has significant deposits of both hessonite and demantoid, particularly in Quebec. However, you can also find almandine and tsavorite in various parts of Canada, including British Columbia, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon Territory, just not in the same quantities.
While many gems are found across Canada, only a few were originally discovered there. Howlite is one such gemstone. It was initially labeled a nuisance, as local miners were having far more trouble with it than the gypsum they usually encountered. However, once it was brought to the attention of Henry How in 1868, he determined that it wasn’t an annoyance but a new discovery.
The howlite gemstone features an opaque white surface with darker veins, making it look similar to classic white marble. It’s also incredibly porous.
Howlite is typically low-cost. Additionally, it’s fairly easy to dye since it’s porous, allowing people to alter the hue to make it resemble other stones. As a result, howlite has a bit of a reputation as an imitation gem. However, howlite is a natural gemstone, and a beautiful one at that.
While Iolite has a long history, dating back several hundred years, it isn’t as widely known as many other stones. It has recently been rising to prominence, mainly due to the rich indigo blue coloring and its unique pleochroism, a type of play of color that causes the gem’s hue to shift depending on the viewing angle.
Thanks to the pleochroism, an iolite gemstone may look purplish-blue from one direction and yellow, gray, or clear from another. Often, gemstone cutters try to enhance the effect by carefully choosing the angles of the cuts, ensuring the phenomenon is featured in the final gem.
Iolite is found in various countries all around the world. In Canada, the most significant sources are in the Northwest Territories and Ontario. However, it also shows up in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Saskatchewan.
Labradorite isn’t just a popular Canadian gemstone; it’s a gem named after Labrador, where the stone was initially discovered in 1770. It has a spectacular play of color – referred to as labradorescence – that many people say looks like a rainbow shimmering inside the stone.
According to one legend, labradorite in Canada once held the Northern Lights. When a warrior discovered the trapped lights and freed them, a portion remained in the gem, giving the stone its characteristic appearance.
Opals are another one of the birthstones that you can find in Canada. British Columbia is home to Canada’s only opal mines. The location produces a wide array of opals, including common and precious varieties, often with some of both intermingled together.
Overall, precious opals are far more desirable. They feature the play of color known as opalescence. When light hits the stone, it can produce a rainbow-like experience, with hues ranging from soft pastels to vibrant reds, greens, blues, and more.
Another one of the Canadian gemstones that is found mainly in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory is rhodonite. Most specimens are lovely pink stones, ranging from softer near-pastel shades to bright bubble gums to deeper roses. It can get incredibly close to red in some cases, though it usually maintains a hint of softness.
Aside from its unique coloring, a standout feature for rhodonite is that it often features dramatic black patches or veining. Those areas create a surprising amount of contrast across the stone’s surface, enhancing its visual interest.
One interesting point about rhodonite deposits is that they tend to be smaller, resulting in lower yields. It’s also considered an uncommon stone overall, further reducing its availability. As a result, rhodonite isn’t particularly widespread in the jewelry community, even though it’s an attention-grabbing stone.
Sodalite is found throughout the world, though most of it comes from Canada or the United States. The stone usually features a bold combination of deep blue coloring and bright white veining. However, some versions lean toward violet-blue, and specific samples may be yellow, green, red, gray, or colorless.
One of the versions is mainly found in crystals in Canada. Alomite is technically sodalite; it’s just commercially listed under the other name. It features a strong coloring that’s often called “princess blue,” partially because it was said to be a favorite of Princess Patricia, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter.
Another interesting fact about sodalite is that it can fluoresce under UV light. The fluorescence is orange and, while it’s subtle, it’s a standout characteristic nonetheless.
Spinel isn’t technically just a single gemstone. Instead, it’s a collection of minerals. As a result, it’s found on every continent in a wide array of colors.
Many versions of spinel are reasonably common. However, some colors are surprisingly hard to find. For example, cobalt-blue spinel specimens found in Baffin Island, Nunavut aren’t just rare Canadian gemstones; according to University of British Columbia study co-author Philippe Belley, they’re “ridiculously rare” on a global scale.
Tourmaline is found in several areas of Canada, including Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, and Quebec. It usually forms in long, crystal-like structures, making specimens incredibly striking in their natural state.
When cut, tourmaline may be transparent or translucent, depending on its quality. Some pieces are ideal for cutting, with the resulting gems ultimately ending up in jewelry. Others are polished, allowing the gentle sheen to highlight the stone’s coloring.
Like spinel, tourmaline can come in a wide range of colors. Even the slightest shift in composition creates a different hue, creating yellow, green, blue, red, pink, and colorless varieties.
Some versions of tourmaline are color-zoned, meaning more than one hue is present, though they are separated along a line. However, those are exceptionally rare in all parts of the world